Scientists now believe that a close star could be preparing to blow off, and when it does, it will be visible with the naked eye from Earth for a period of two weeks. However, researchers wonder what would happen when Betelgeuse goes supernova.
A star dubbed Betelgeuse, which is among the most visible cosmic objects in the night sky is apparently signaling the end of its life. Astronomers have been observing the star for a few years, but in the last few months, it has begun to dim in an accelerated manner. In December, Betelgeuse went from the top ten brightest stars in the night to the 21st. This phenomenon would imply that it is expected to explode.
Edward Guinan, a professor in Villanova University’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, and his team published a paper in the Astronomers Telegram journal that says: “This appears to be the faintest the star has been measured since observations have been carried out of the star. We plan to continue to monitor the star. If the star continues to follow the above periods, the light minimum should occur soon. Stars supernova when they are at the end of their lives having had run out of fuel after millions of years.”
When they do, they explode, collapsing on themselves due to the powerful gravitational force they manifest before a massive explosion takes place.
NASA said: “As a star runs out of nuclear fuel, some of its mass flows into its core. Eventually, the core is so heavy that it cannot withstand its own gravitational force. The core collapses, which results in the giant explosion of a supernova.”
Stars also have to be gigantic for them to go supernova, with the experts suggesting the minimum size of a star to be able to explode being around 15 times bigger than the Sun.
When Will it Explode?
Betelgeuse is a red giant, measuring about 700 times more than the Sun. The star is, though, 643 light-years from Earth, which means that our planet is safe from the explosion when it finally goes supernova.
Experts say that Betelgeuse would still be visible from Earth when it blows off. The last explosion that was visible with the naked eye took place in 1604 when Kepler’s Star went supernova, generating a light bright enough to be visible during the day time for three weeks.
When it finally explodes, however, is a different thing. Betelgeuse is so gigantic that it has a relatively short life, burning through all its gas in approximately 10 million years.
For a bit of reference, smaller stars such as the Sun are most likely to live up to 10 billion years. However, researchers are not sure about when Betelgeuse will blow off, stating it could occur within the next few years, up to 100,000 years in the future.
Astronomer Yvette Cendes of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said: “We don’t think Betelgeuse is likely to go supernova in our lifetimes as it probably still has tens of thousands of years, if not 100,000.”